Nothing says summer quite like alfresco dining with your family and friends. As this one is soon coming to an end, it's understandable that many people organise them as often as they can before the weather turns into fall. But if you're trying to lose weight - or even not gain weight - it can be tough to do that when BBQ food's deliciousness surrounds you.
But BBQs don't have to be full of sugar, salt, and fat. You can still enjoy fresh, healthy foods and make progress on your healthy eating goals. Here are 5 ways to make BBQs fun and stay on track with your progress.
Go In With A Plan
BBQs are fun, and the opportunity to enjoy a good time with family and friends isn't there all year-round. So don't let anxieties about gaining weight mean you miss out. Going into the BBQ with a plan that you can stick to will be essential.
When putting food on your plate, stick to the same principles, you would if you were eating indoors. Pick a lean protein source, and then fill your plate with fresh vegetables and salad. It can help to move further away from all the food while you're eating so that you can be mindful of your choices and that you don't end up grazing on things that are hard to track later.
Do the Math for Your Calories
If you know you're heading to a BBQ in the late afternoon, try to keep your calories low before you go. Maybe think about skipping breakfast or lunch and save those calories back for later in the day. This way, even if you eat a little more than you are meant for your third meal, your total daily intake still won't put you into a calorie surplus.
You can also "borrow" calories from other days in the week leading up to your BBQ event. Say, for example, you're aiming for 2000 calories per day, and you've got a BBQ on Sunday afternoon. You could reduce your intake each day by 200 calories - which you'd hardly notice - and go into that BBQ having "saved up" 1200 from the previous 6 days. Plenty of calories saved so that you can relax and enjoy yourself.
ChoosE Your Meat WiSely
Often at BBQs, burgers, ribs, and hot dogs are the obvious choices, but they aren't always the lowest calorie option. They are usually fattier cuts of meat and are typically coated in marinades or sauces, which add sugars and salt that you may not want.
You might consider chicken or turkey grilled on the bone (which will keep it moist) or fish options like shrimp or scallops that are far leaner and just as flavorful when prepared and cooked right. It's wise to understand the calorie content of meat, poultry and fish so when it comes to that you have the choice to go leaner and healthier.
You might even consider a meatless plant-based burger option that is guaranteed to have no gristle and much lower fat levels than a meat burger.
Load Up On Veggies
The crunch of potato chips and the tang of the salsa dip is tempting. Still, often these are a higher calorie option, which leaves a lot of nutritional goodness on the table. If you're looking for something that has a satisfying crunch, but without the extra calories, cut up veggies and fruit bring a light summer freshness to the BBQ. They have bags of flavor and color, and you can fill up on these so that you won't overeat on sweet options or snacks. If you're attending someone else's BBQ, this is an easy side dish you can offer.
Don't Lose on the Booze
You can drink alcohol on a diet and still lose weight. You may need to make some adjustments to the alcohol that you choose, though. Sweet cocktails can sometimes run to hundreds of calories, and a better choice may be light beers or lighter wines.
If beer and wine can't be accommodated in the calorie budget, mixed drinks probably can. Remember to mix with diet drinks to avoid the sugar and extra calories, or mix with spritzers to keep the fruity bubbles.
Alternating alcoholic drinks with soft drinks and spritzers can be a great way to feel like you're making your drink last without nursing the same drink all night. Spritzers made with berries, watermelon, citrus fruits, and peaches feel like just as much of a summery treat as a cocktail - at a fraction of the calories.
BBQs are lovely - and with a few steps, they can be enjoyed without breaking the diet. Keeping calories in reserve so you can go in knowing you can "afford" some special food without pushing you out of your deficit. Making your choices around food based on lean meats and vegetables, rather than higher-calorie cheesy burgers or creamy coleslaw sides. Choosing to limit alcohol - or at least, being very selective about what you're sipping on - will help to keep your diet on track.